Super cheap houses in Italy have become legendary in recent years. The €1 “Case 1 Euro” house initiative launched in 2017, dreamed up by the authorities, aims to reverse the effects of population decline in rural areas and repair buildings no owner. As abandoned homes and apartments have sold off in tiny rural towns across the country, the idea of ​​snagging a small amount of Italy for the price of an espresso has drawn buyers from across the country. places in the world.

But while the lure of a home for one euro sounds appealing, the reality is that it’s a lot more expensive. Most properties for sale at that price point need substantial renovation to be livable. Some are no more than four walls and a crumbling roof.

As a result, many buyers choose to pay more for a home that requires less work. By British or American standards, they’re still a bargain – it’s not uncommon to be able to buy and modernize a property in a beautiful country village for under €50,000.

To find out the reality behind the €1 headlines, The Independent Talk to some discount homebuyers to hear about their experiences.

Meredith in front of the view from her property

(Meredith Tabbone)

‘It’s the same village my family comes from’

In 2019, Meredith Tabbone was in the process of applying for Italian citizenship through her grandparents when she saw an article online describing a €1 ballot for houses in Sicily.

Meredith, from Chicago, said: “I read the article and realized that was the village my family lived in.

Within weeks, she was the proud owner of a small two-story townhouse in Sambuca, a picturesque medieval hill town west of Sicily. Although she has visited Italy many times, she has never been to Sicily – but the chance of owning a place a few streets away from where her grandparents grew up outweighs the risk.

While some towns in Italy are selling homes for €1, in Meredith’s case the process is a bit different. Auctions for this house started at just €1 through a silent auction, which she eventually won with a bid of €5,555. Even with that bargain price, there’s serious work to be done.

“It has no windows, no running water, no electricity,” she explains. “It’s an original house built in the 1600s.”

To tackle the substantial renovation, she set herself a budget of €35,000 and contacted a local architect via Instagram ahead of her first visit to Sambuca in late 2019. Although They didn’t speak the same language, they immediately hooked up on similar ideas and he went to handle the whole project, which Meredith says saved her headaches in the long run.

Since then, she has purchased the semi-detached house, significantly exceeding the original budget limit to renovate her €1 purchase. She plans to turn the property into a second home of her dreams and spends a month out of three in Sicily.

Despite the escalating costs, she has no regrets buying in Sambuca. “If I built this house in Chicago, it would be a $2 million+ house — but I could build it in Sambuca for $200,000.”

Meredith’s house in Sambuca

(Meredith Tabbone)

‘I was just looking for “Where is the best place to invest in real estate?”

While the allure of a €1 property is hugely appealing, it’s not for everyone. Some people prefer to pay a little more for homes that require less work.

After being left some inheritance by a relative, the Bradford sisters, Beckie, 40, and Laura Stephenson, 37, decided to invest their money in the property.

“It’s not enough to put down a deposit on a London property,” says Beckie. “So I started looking at buying overseas – I was just looking for ‘Where is the best place to invest in real estate?’ and Sicily launched. ”

More googling put Beckie in touch with MyHouse, a real estate agent based in Cianciana, another beautiful hilltop town in western Sicily. Another “one euro town,” Cianciana has seen a moderate influx of foreign buyers over the past few years thanks to efforts to combat population decline.

The sisters flew to Italy at the end of 2019 and spent the weekend looking at the property. It didn’t take long to find a home that they both liked – a two-story house in the center of town – and shortly after the €9,000 bid, it was theirs.

They put a reservation (half the bid) and flew back to the UK, while the estate agency took care of the necessary checks. The next time they visited in September 2020, they had a house in Italy.

“’Sign these papers, transfer the money and it’s yours.” That’s basically it,’ says Beckie. to which I applied online – it took a few weeks.”

For the Stephensons, the process could not have gone any better, even though they bought the property in the midst of a global pandemic. Beckie thinks buying a home at the time really helped.

“I think there’s probably not a lot of people going through the same thing so it went pretty quickly and smoothly,” she said.

Overall, the experience has proven extremely positive for the couple. Only refurbishment jobs need a little patience, as they must capture the local Italian time frame. Although the house was habitable when they bought it, it needs some work to bring it up to a modern standard.

“The quality of the work is exceptional. But you have to get that time out of your mind. If you think something is going to take a month, it’s probably going to take six,” Beckie said.

View from Candice and Andy’s Sicily house

(Candice Beaumont)

‘They welcomed us as part of the family’

Candice, 33, and Andy Beaumont, 39, from Hampshire, also found their dream home in Cianciana, Sicily, using the same real estate agent, Stephensons.

Despite paying more for this privilege for 35,000 euros, they still get a two-bedroom villa set in the undulating hills just outside of town, with stunning views and 1, 4 acres of land included.

Candice says: “The actual buying process isn’t as stressful as it is in the UK, where you have a £300,000 mortgage.

Because real estate in Italy is so cheap, many people can afford to buy it. Aside from the legal bureaucracy that comes with buying a home abroad (legal fees can be as high as €3,000), there’s very little for you to accept – if you have a good English-speaking agent or a interpreters.

Through MyHouse, Beaumonts finds the process very simple. After seeing a property they liked online, they flew out to see it for themselves before bidding. This whole process takes about four months.

In fact, buying a car has proven to be the only major obstacle to their Italian adventure so far. Candice explains: “We cannot buy a car and if we were to ship a car from the UK it would have to be registered in Italy, but we cannot switch to Italian registration if it is not a company. Italian people.

Residency is one of the headaches for Britons looking to buy a home in Italy. While it won’t stand in the way of buying a home, buying a home in Italy has not afforded British residency since the UK left the EU.

On top of that, people from the UK can only spend 90 of the 180 days here, under the terms of the Brexit deal. As non-residents, the extra council tax is also a factor, although Candice says that even with a higher proportion of non-residents it is still about a quarter of what they pay in the UK.

As well as having a positive experience, all five buyers agreed that the warm reception they received in their little Italian enclave made the process more rewarding. For many of these towns, whether they sell ultra-low-priced homes or not, populations are dwindling. The chance of adding new residents over a number of years, or a steady trickle of tourism, is seen as a huge boost to the local economy.

“Everyone is friendly. We don’t speak Italian, but they were very pleasant. We have the best neighbors. They welcomed us as part of the family,” said Candice.

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